Posts Tagged ‘notes’

Learn Something New To Correct Old Mistakes

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

I thought that I could read music. I took piano lessons for years as a child from an old woman, Viola Hicks, who drove around to the scattered farm houses and gave half hour lessons for one dollar a session. And I did learn to play. I can pound out a ragtime tune from Scott Joplin, play a little Bach and Grieg, make my way presentably through a church hymnal, and pretty much play any piece of popular sheet music that you put in front of me.

I can sing, too, either the tune or in harmony.

But, it turns out, I don’t know what I’m doing. Point to a particular note on the page and I have to work out what it is. It’ll take me several seconds to answer. Ask me what chord I’m playing and I just don’t know. What key am I playing in? God help me, I’m not that smart.

I see the dots on the page and I know what keys to press down. I have raw musical talent, a good ear, but no comprehension of music theory.

I found this out in complete clarity the other day as I was learning to play my new ukulele. I am doing really well learning to play the chords, but the moment that I attempted playing individual notes I slammed right into the wall of comprehension. Play an A? What’s that?

It is immensely frustrating and frightening. I thought that I knew this stuff. What I can do is really remarkable. I’m more like a computer reading assembly code. I see the dots and my hands press down the right keys. My ear notes when I press the wrong key and I quickly correct. So yes, I can read music, but I don’t really understand it the way I thought I did.

And so, when I’m nearly 54, I’m setting out to really learn to read music. Gods above, it’s hard!

And it’s really, really satisfying.

I am betting there are more of these things hiding in my head. Things that I think that I know, but of which I only skim the surface. I’ll see if I can manage learning to really read music before seeking out more things that I should know, but don’t.

What do you think that you know? Are you sure? Might be time to test yourself and see if you are doing more than seeing the dots and pressing the keys. Once you uncover one of these frustrating oversights you have a chance to do something about it, to learn something new, and, possibly, to get much better at something you value.

This reinforces a maxim that I’ve stated before: most of what we think we know is wrong. The degree to which we’re willing to test what we know, to learn, to become a little less wrong, determines how far we can go in any given area.

I’m playing painfully slow scales, but I’m learning. I can’t kid myself any more.

Word. Notebooks Built For To Dos

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

The folks at Word. Notebooks sent me a few of their notebooks to take a look at. They’ve sat in my “Action” file during my recent convalescence, but I’ve been giving them a go recently. I can’t help but  compare them to the Field Notes Memo books that I regularly carry and love.

They are very similar in several ways. They cost within pennies of each other for packs of three notebooks—Field Notes for $9.95 and Word. for $9.99. They are almost exactly the same size. Almost. I’m looking now at an example of each. They both have 48 pages. What is different is their “fit and finish.”

The Field Notes Memo book lies flat on the desk surface. It is exceptionally well crafted. The Word. notebook bulges up and the cover points out at nearly 40 degrees from the desktop surface. That’s a matter of paper stock and how they’re manufactured. It’s not a big deal for many, but it can matter to the rather compulsive notebook connoisseur like me. The flatness of a book that you carry in a pocket, especially a shirt pocket, makes a difference. The Word. notebooks are stiffer and perhaps sturdier, but they bulge.

Perhaps the bigger difference is the purpose of each notebook. The Field Notes memo book has only a general purpose: write things down. The Word. notebook is designed for to dos. Each page has a very simple symbol running down the left side of the page—a circle with a dot in the center, faintly printed. The inside cover has a key that allows the notebook’s owner to capture things to do and then use the symbol to highlight the following:

  • Darken the center dot to indicate a bullet point
  • Darken the circle to indicate that this is important
  • Draw a slash through the circle from left to right ( \ )through the circle to indicate that the item is in progress
  • Draw an X through the circle to indicate that the time is complete.

This isn’t a bad system. It’s very efficient and properly used one can maintain a very neat notebook of captured and working todos.

But I’m not a neat person when it comes to note taking. I capture far more than things to do. I capture ideas. There’s nothing that keeps me from using a Word. notebook to capture an idea, but it rankles me to do so. I’m messing up this very specifically designed notebook and feel like I should be making the note somewhere else. That’s just me and no fault of the notebook.

Frankly, I prefer Patrick Rhone’s notation formula and find it much more flexible. It doesn’t require special paper and it can be used mingled amongst other types of notes. I’ve been using it since 2006 when he first published it and I find it easy and effective.

I can recommend the Word. notebooks, especially if you are dedicated to capturing to dos. You can purchase them here.



Three Rules Of Proper Notebook Management: 3-What To Do With Filled Notebooks

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

It doesn’t matter.

I very rarely look at my older, archived notebooks, but I like having them. I don’t need them. Perhaps someday I’ll build a bonfire to send them back into the void or bury them in the ground and let them gently return to nature. Perhaps I’ll urge those who carry on after me to just dispose of them, send them in shreds into recycling.

It is the act of making a note, stopping just a moment to think about something and taking the time to write it down, that etches the concept, the object, the event, the thought into my memory.  Scribbled notes on the page is the artifact, not the idea that prompted them.

I use my pocket notebooks to capture things in the moment, then typically within the day I transfer those things somewhere else. Or not. When the notebook is full, worn beyond repair, or when my fancy is captured by a new notebook, I review the contents of the old one, then typically add it to the stack of others accumulated across the years.

The notebooks that I fill serve their purpose within days of being used. Their life after that is, for me, only nostalgic.

Three Rules Of Proper Notebook Management: 2-The Best Notebook To Use

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Whatever is available.

The notebook or writing surface you have with you at the moment is the best one to use.

I love trying out new notebooks, but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter what brand or type of notebook I use. I frequently just carry a few 3×5 note cards to make notes on (and always have one folded in my wallet, just in case).

I have indestructible notebooks, whimsical ones, ones that are well made and finely crafted, and others that are barely held together with tape and staples. I have found them all useful.

Develop the habit of carrying and using something to write on and you will discover that having something, anything, to write on at all times is better than having the perfect thing to write on occasionally.

Three Rules Of Proper Notebook Management: 1-What To Write In Your Notebook

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013


A pocket notebook is one of the most valuable tools a writer can possess and it’s pretty damn useful for everyone else, too. Write down everything that you need to know later, want to remember, things that you’ve seen, or ideas that have occurred to you.

Write down things that amuse, shock, or move you in some way. This is the thing that makes people writers: they experience something and their first and strongest impulse is to write about it.

A notebook kept for a single purpose will likely go unused. A general notebook, well managed, is a mass of ideas, reminders, and observations.

It’s a goldmine.